Many are classic Palestinian dishes, and some are traditional in several Arab countries. Although these meals have become popular among Israelis, especially on the street food scene, they are all Arab-invented foods (mainly from the Levant or North Africa) with Arabic names.
1. Za’atar (زعتر)
This blend of herbs primarily consists of a species of thyme that grows wild in Palestine, Syria, and Lebanon. A popular way to eat this spice mixture is with olive oil and flatbread. Here is a simple recipe from Tasty Mediterraneo.
2. Ka’ak (كعك)
Ka’ak refers to a variety of different Arab cookies and cakes. Many are semolina-based and can contain sesame seeds, mahlab, pistachios, dates, orange blossom, and other flavors. These bread rings are one type of ka’ak that are especially popular during the Eid and Easter holidays in the Middle East.
3. Tabbouleh (تبولة)
Tabbouleh is a salad that uses mainly chopped mint, parsley, tomatoes, bulgur, and onions. Different variations of it exist all over the Middle East, and it has become a staple side dish. It’s healthy and easy to make too!
4. Couscous (الكسكس)
Couscous is the result of coarsely ground semolina being moistened and tossed with wheat flour. It is believed that the indigenous Berber people of North Africa originally introduced this grain. Since then, the people of Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, and other nearby countries have turned it into a hearty dish containing cooked meat and vegetables.
5. Maftoul (مفتول)
Grocery stores and restaurants love to call this pasta Israeli couscous. However, maftoul (Arabic for “twirled” or “twisted”) is similar but separate from North African couscous, made with different methods and ingredients. Step-by-step instructions for hand rolling Palestinian maftoul can be found here.
6. Shakshouka (شكشوكة)
A colloquial Arabic word for “mixture,” shakshouka is an often spicy dish made with poached eggs, tomatoes, and chili.
7. Falafel (فلافل)
The world falafel is a pluralized form of the Arabic word for peppers. This is probably one of the most prevalent Arab street foods in the United States. Falafels are mostly mashed chickpeas and spices, rolled into balls and deep-fried. They can be made at home and customized to your personal preferences, but most people in the Middle East just buy their falafel sandwiches off a cart.
8. Hummus (الحمص)
“Hummus” simply means “chickpeas” in Arabic. However, hummus spread is made from not only chickpeas, but also tahini (sesame seed paste), olive oil, lemon, paprika, garlic, and salt. The recipe is very simple, and it’s perfect for dipping pita bread or spreading onto sandwiches.
9. Musakhan (مسخّن)
Musakhan is Arabic for “heated.” The dish is Palestinian in origin, and it is made by spreading a combination of olive oil, saffron, sumac, and other spices over a flatbread. It is then topped with roasted chicken and pine nuts, and finally eaten with your hands.
10. Fattoush (فتوش)
This is an Arab-style “bread salad” that was made in the Levant. It has a lot of different variants, but the primary ingredients are toasted pita bread and mixed greens. Check out this blogger’s take on fattoush.